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Robert St. John

Restaurateur, author, enthusiastic traveler, & world-class eater.

Toast and Stuff

May 5, 2014

The older I get the less enamored I am with inanimate objects.

As a kid, I loved “stuff.” I could spend 30 minutes on the 15-foot long toy shelf at the neighborhood Ben Franklin store. The “stuff” obsession didn’t end in childhood. As an adult I went through several phases— a compact disc phase, a clothing phase, an electronic gadgets phase, and many more. The results of all of those phases are 12,000 compact discs sitting in boxes above my garage, tons of clothes that no longer fit or are out of style, and boxes of electronic gadgets that are obsolete. All but the compact discs have been given away to charities.

It’s progress not perfection; by no means do I live a minimal, feng shui existence these days. The editors from “Real Simple” magazine aren’t asking to do a photo shoot in my bedroom, but my life is way less complicated than it ever has been.

The beauty of simplifying life is that the “small things” become more important. Enter the newest prized possession— my toaster.

I love my toaster as much as any inanimate object in my life (and that includes my truck). I own a lot of appliances and cooking gadgets for indoors and outside, but none have given me as much satisfaction as my toaster, to be more precise, my Breville BOV450XL Mini Smart Oven with Element IQ. I don’t know what “Element IQ” is, but I’m glad my toaster has it. Whatever it is, it’s awesome.

I love toast. I am a devout 52-year, dyed-in-the-grain, toast-with-butter-and-jelly-or-honey lover. I like buttered toast for breakfast, any time during the day, and for a late-night snack using the honey from my farm.

I never use margarine or any butter substitute that squeezes from a bottle or comes in a giant tub that takes up half of a shelf in the refrigerator. I am very feng shui about toast— whole wheat bread, salted butter, and honey or pure fruit preserves. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less.

I never, ever, ever use pop-up toasters. They just don’t work for my kind of toasting. I am not a spread-the-butter-on-already-toasted-bread kind of guy. That never works. It tears the toast and the butter never melts. I want the bread to be toasted on both sides, but I want the butter to be melted on the bread while it is toasting. That may seem a little picky and over-the-top to some. After all, its just toast, but that should let you know how much I like toast.

For years I made my toast in the oven using the broil feature. I would toast one side and then remove the baking sheet from the oven, gently place four thinly sliced butter pats on each piece of bread, and then pop the bread back into the oven to broil the other side. That took a long time just for the broiler to preheat. No longer, thanks to my new best friend, the Breville Mini Smart Oven (with Element IQ no less).

My toaster has a lot of features and settings. I can turn a knob to “cookies” or “pizza” but I cook both of those in the oven. It also has settings for bagels, baking, reheating, broiling, and roasting. None of those settings matter to me, I keep it set to “toast.” This thing makes perfectly toasted toast. Have I mentioned that I love toast?

Some of the most distinct memories of my grandmother are of her sitting in her breakfast room in the morning, looking out into the backyard where something was always in bloom. Beside the table, just by where she sat, was a cart that had a small toaster oven on it. She made toast every morning and ate it with several homemade jams and jellies she kept in her pantry. My love for toast probably came from that small breakfast room.

Had I known this relatively small purchase was going to lead to such joy, I would have skipped out on a few of the CDs and ill-fitting shirts and bought a counter-top toaster years ago.



Bananas Foster French Toast



6                         Eggs

2 cups              Half and half

1 /2 cup           Sugar

2 tsp                  Cinnamon

2 tsp                  Orange zest, fresh

1 tsp                   Vanilla

1 stick                Butter

1 large loaf       French bread, sliced on a diagonal into 1 1 /2 inch thick pieces



Bananas Foster Sauce

1 stick                  Butter

4 cups                 Bananas, sliced

3 /4 cup             Pecan pieces

2 Tbl.                  Dark rum

1 1 /2 cups        Butter pecan or maple syrup


Preheat oven to 200 degrees.


Combine all of the ingredients for batter and stir well. Soak French bread slices in batter for five minutes. Heat butter over a medium heat in a large skillet. Brown the soaked bread on each side and place in a baking dish. Keep French toast in the oven to keep warm until all slices have been cooked.


To make the sauce; add butter and bananas to the same pan. Cook for four to five minutes and add the rum. Allow alcohol to burn off. Stir in the pecans and syrup. Remove French toast from oven and top with Bananas Foster sauce. Serve immediately.

Yield: six to eight servings

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